Digitization FAQs

BPL & Digital Commonwealth Statewide Digitization

Digitization FAQs

  • The only items you need to prepare prior to your arrival are samples of the materials you are proposing be digitized (including samples of any descriptive information you have for the materials — catalog cards, MARC records, spreadsheets, finding aids, etc.). During the visit, we will assess materials for both fragility and appropriateness, so having samples available is very helpful. We want to see anything you have in mind, even if you suspect digitization is a long shot.

    Please also prepare a list of questions for us. We’re there to help you feel comfortable with the process, so no question should be considered unreasonable or silly.

    Lastly, if you have anything that you think we might bring back to the BPL with us, after assessment, you need to have boxes and packing material ready so that we can transport it safely.

    For information about what types of content may be contributed, see the Collection Development Policy.

  • No. Participating institutions are responsible for obtaining their own packing supplies, including sturdy boxes and packing tape, for transport of materials. Depending on the type and fragility of items, you may also need some cushioning material (e.g., bubble wrap, packing peanuts, or crumpled kraft paper) to pad items and prevent shifting. Large sheets of sturdy cardboard may also be helpful if you need to package oversized material. Please ensure that you choose a box of suitable strength and size for the items you are transporting.

  • If you are transporting bound materials, we ask that you use boxes that are close to the size of the boxes that typically hold reams of printer paper (nothing larger). If you are transporting a large number of small, archival boxes, placing a few of them inside a larger box can help protect them during travel. If you are transporting larger materials, such as maps or posters, sandwiching them between two large pieces of sturdy cardboard and taping them securely generally offers decent protection. If you have several short, flat boxes (for example, those that are 16” x 20” x 1”) and you cannot find larger boxes to hold them, they can be transported as is.

    In general, whatever size package you use, your materials should be held in sturdy containers that are travel-safe and human-liftable.

  • No. Whether a shipping company or BPL staffers come to collect your materials, those materials should be packed and ready to go prior to the collecting agency’s arrival. Upon return, the materials will be left at the institution’s loading dock (if available), front desk, or another nearby location designated by the participating institution.

    Participating institutions should have carts or dollies available for transporting multiple boxes at once.

  • That is really up to you. BPL staffers recognize that eliminating duplicate copies of this type of material (for example, postcards, photographs) can be very time-consuming, so we don’t require it. For our own collections, we often digitize multiple copies of the same items as they may have slight differences which could be important to those using the materials.

  • No. Please remove any duplicate bound items from your set before you send your materials to the BPL. If BPL staffers finds duplicate bound items when preparing your materials for digitization, they will pick the cleanest copy, use that for digitization, and hold the other copies aside. If you are intentionally submitting multiple copies of the same bound items because they have minor differences, please include a note indicating that the duplicates were sent intentionally and that all copies should be digitized.

  • It is difficult to give a specific answer to this question. The length of time the BPL will keep the materials depends on several factors, including the size of the collection, the uniformity of the materials, and the other collections in the lab at that time. On average, the entire process takes between one to two months, but in specific cases it has been significantly shorter or longer.

  • That depends on the type of material that was digitized.

    Bound items digitized by the Internet Archive at the BPL are finished. All metadata for materials scanned by the Internet Archive must be complete prior to digitization. Following digitization, items are available through each institution’s dedicated collection page at archive.org, for example:

    East Bridgewater High School yearbook collection at the Internet Archive

    In addition, each digitized item is given a unique URL. These URLs are permanent and stable and are suitable for use as web links. For example, though not required, many institutions choose to add these URLs to their MARC records, or even to their institution’s own website. Here is how the East Bridgewater High School Library made the yearbooks available on their website:

    East Bridgewater High School yearbook collection at the Internet Archive at their school’s library web page

    The BPL will work with the Internet Archive and Digital Commonwealth to ensure that these items are available via Digital Commonwealth systems.

    Items digitized at the BPL Digital Imaging Lab may need additional work. The BPL lab only requires that a unique alpha/numeric identifier be assigned to each item prior to digitization. If your institution did not complete object descriptions suitable for use in the DC system prior to digitization, you will need to create these records. To learn more about creating structured data, see our list of Resources.

  • No. Since the Internet Archive used its own programmers to develop its interface, the BPL doesn’t have deep technical knowledge of its index and search capabilities. For example, we don’t have information about how Internet Archive results might display in search engines such as Google or Bing. For this reason, technical questions are often better answered by staff at the Internet Archive.

    We can, however, help institutions better understand what descriptive information the Internet Archive needs prior to project commencement to facilitate their digitization process. And, once the fully functional Digital Commonwealth portal and repository is up and running, we will be able to answer technical questions about our own systems.

  • No. Bound materials, which are digitized at the Internet Archive, can be downloaded directly from the Internet Archive website. For that reason, the BPL will not provide additional copies of the files on external media such as, CD, DVD, or external hard drive. However, the BPL will provide links to each volume on the Internet Archive’s site so that the download page can be easily accessed.

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